Florida Baptist women serve seafarers: ‘An overseas mission field right in our backyard’

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PORT CANAVERAL—Since 1997, the Canaveral Port Ministry has sought to serve thousands of seafarers–representing hundreds of countries–who come through Port Canaveral each year. Although the role that seafarers fulfill is crucial to our global economy, their physical and spiritual health hangs in the balance.

Recognizing this massive void and understanding the burden this places upon countless volunteers who serve around the clock at Port Canaveral, the Women’s Missions and Ministry/Missions Education team of the Florida Baptist Convention stepped in to serve.

Thirteen women—from all corners of the Sunshine State—traveled from their Florida Baptist churches to the Canaveral Port Ministry Center in Port Canaveral for a four-day mission trip. Despite only being a long weekend, the team was able to serve lunch to almost 400 seafarers and crew members daily, greet crew members, pack gift bags, prepare Christmas gifts for the seafarers, make salvation bracelets and more.

“We were able to prayerfully interact with seafarers and share the love of Christ,” said Debbie Langley, a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Arcadia. “We were really able to come alongside them and assist them in any way possible.”

Langley continued by recognizing that thousands of seafarers from around the world are coming to Florida’s own backyard and that we must capitalize on this opportunity.

“People from all over the world come through their doors,” she said. “It is an overseas mission field right in our backyard!”

Langley said that the purpose of the stateside mission trip was multifaceted. The Florida Baptist women not only ministered to the seafarers but also encouraged and supported long-term volunteers on site.

Sandy Young, member of San Jose Baptist Church in Jacksonville and team leader for the WMM/ME Missions Involvement Team, is praying that more women across the state would recognize the burden and become more engaged with the seafarers’ ministry.

“The hope with each trip is that some of the women will have a burden for the ministry and share their interest with their church and then the church or ladies’ group would help support the ministry,” said Young.

With a desire for women to “experience different mission opportunities,” Young hopes to plan more short-term mission trips in various regions of the state so that all women—no matter age,

finances or location—can cultivate a love for missions and come right beside ministries and even church plants within the Florida Baptist family.

“I see the ministry of WMM/ME as involving the ladies of Florida in supporting various ministries and church plants,” she said. “By taking the ladies on short-term mission trips, they can develop a heart for missions that go beyond just the trip. They can encourage giving to missions and to be ready to go when the opportunity presents.”

The Port Canaveral mission team consisted of women from Jacksonville, Bartow, Deland, Alachua, Lakeland and Arcadia.

To minimize costs so that more women can participate in missions, the mission team was housed at the Park Avenue Adult Retreat Center, a ministry of Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville.

The significance of caring for seafarers not only has ripple effects around the world but also has a major impact within the Sunshine State as the WMM/ME desires to train and equip women to run on mission.

With a desire to give women opportunities to serve with an evangelistic focus, while also providing women enriching times of fellowship and support with other women throughout Florida, the WMM/ME sponsors mission trips for women whose churches might not be able to offer a mission trip on their own.

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